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Topic: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?  (Read 4572 times)

Offline ranjit

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Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
on: September 22, 2017, 06:24:16 AM
I am referring to playing pieces at the level of Liszt Transcendental Etudes, and Ravelís Jeux DíEau, at a level which would be considered acceptable at a conservatoire. Do you know of people who have accomplished this starting in their late teenage/adulthood?

I am 19 years old, and started teaching myself piano when I was 17. Most people whom I come across say that I am quite talented. I have a decent ear, and can play most pop songs by ear, almost immediately. I can read sheet music, but at a very low (say, grade 1) level. Pieces I have learnt include Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No 2, and Schubert Impromptu No 4.
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Offline klavieronin

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #1 on: September 22, 2017, 06:51:49 AM
I started at 17, got a conservatory degree at 28, and have play Liszt, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff etudes (thought not easily). It's definitely possible but takes a lot of work. During my most productive years I practiced up to 6 hours a day.

I would consider it quite remarkable, however, if someone starting at 17 managed to reach a professional standard in the classical world.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #2 on: September 22, 2017, 06:55:06 AM
 Of course you can learn to play high-level pieces, but it takes discipline. And that discipline includes learning piano in a progressive way.   you need to learn how to read music and the skills associated with it beginning at level one and should even leave pieces like Chopin Nocturn number 9/2 alone until you get past level one. It is one thing to work on a piece that is slightly above your level.  And quite another to skip many levels of the skills that you need to play it well.

 This discipline  includes  learning pieces that you do not consider fun, recognizing they give you the skills you need to gradually increase the level of the music you're playing.  If you really want to play at a high-level, rather than just struggling through one piece at a high-level, I would recommend starting with a teacher and  'Paying your dues'  by developing skills and learning the piano in a progressive way.

And yes this has been done before, including by one of this forum's members, Who started playing the piano at around age 16, worked very hard and with discipline, and was accepted at the Conservatory.   That takes commitment and patience.  

Offline mjames

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #3 on: September 22, 2017, 07:05:19 AM
...of course it's impossible.

As long as you practice regularly and have a teacher I think you'll be fine. Wouldn't advice going for a degree though, music graduates make crap money.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #4 on: September 22, 2017, 11:58:59 AM
I am referring to playing pieces at the level of Liszt Transcendental Etudes, and Ravelís Jeux DíEau, at a level which would be considered acceptable at a conservatoire. Do you know of people who have accomplished this starting in their late teenage/adulthood?


At 19?  Absolutely.  Most people who come here asking that question are 50, and the answer is a little problematic at that point.  19 is not old.

However.  It will require significant time practicing and some good quality instruction.  We're talking several hours a day, somewhere between 2 and 6, and a teacher better than the average beginner teacher around the corner or at a music store. 

You should know that you'll never make any money playing that stuff.  But your skills would transfer nicely to a rock band and some of those guys make millions.  Actually your skills for that are probably adequate right now, so you have to decide whether the effort is worthwhile.  Diminishing returns, you know. 
Tim

Offline ranjit

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #5 on: September 22, 2017, 01:10:48 PM
you need to learn how to read music and the skills associated with it beginning at level one and should even leave pieces like Chopin Nocturn number 9/2 alone until you get past level one. It is one thing to work on a piece that is slightly above your level.  And quite another to skip many levels of the skills that you need to play it well.

Well, I was only talking about my sight reading level, not my technical level. I can *almost* play the Schubert Impromptu arpeggios at the correct tempo, and play the Chopin Nocturne comfortably, so I'd fancy that in most aspects of piano technique, I am at least a grade 6-7. I can "improvise" on the piano at that technical level or higher for hours, comfortably. Rest assured that I did not hack these pieces, by any means.
If you really want to see the level of playing, I have uploaded a few audio recordings on this site, but I did not think it was relevant, so I did not mention it.

What is a grade, anyway? The only difficulty I had in the Chopin Nocturne was to memorize it (and to interpret it, but that is a never-ending process anyway).

Offline ranjit

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #6 on: September 22, 2017, 01:12:11 PM
At 19?  Absolutely.  Most people who come here asking that question are 50, and the answer is a little problematic at that point.  19 is not old.

Glad to hear that.

You should know that you'll never make any money playing that stuff...
I realize I will probably not be able to make any money off it, at least directly, but that was never the purpose.

Offline mjames

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 01:54:29 PM
You should know that you'll never make any money playing that stuff.  But your skills would transfer nicely to a rock band and some of those guys make millions. 

I would actually try this...just for the giggles. now where can i find a rock band

Offline klavieronin

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #8 on: September 22, 2017, 02:07:59 PM
You should know that you'll never make any money playing that stuff.  But your skills would transfer nicely to a rock band and some of those guys make millions.

Don't for one second believe that making money in a rock band is easy. A friend of mine has been a practicing rock musician for about 30 years, has performed throughout Australia and Europe, has released albums, has had his music played on high rotation on a national radio station, and has gigs booked months in advance. He is very well known and respected among other musicians, yet he still has to teach music business at a technical collage in order to make a decent living.

Moral of the story; don't become a musician unless you don't mind being poor.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Can you play piano at a high level starting as an adult?
Reply #9 on: September 22, 2017, 02:09:06 PM
Well, I was only talking about my sight reading level, not my technical level. I can *almost* play the Schubert Impromptu arpeggios at the correct tempo, and play the Chopin Nocturne comfortably, so I'd fancy that in most aspects of piano technique, I am at least a grade 6-7. I can "improvise" on the piano at that technical level or higher for hours, comfortably. Rest assured that I did not hack these pieces, by any means.
If you really want to see the level of playing, I have uploaded a few audio recordings on this site, but I did not think it was relevant, so I did not mention it.

What is a grade, anyway? The only difficulty I had in the Chopin Nocturne was to memorize it (and to interpret it, but that is a never-ending process anyway).


Grades establish what you can learn and play comfortably in a reasonable amount of time.   You need to distinguish between sight-reading and reading:   Sight reading is the ability to play through a piece for the first time, REASONABLY accurate to notes, rhythm and dynamics.   READING is the skill you need to develop in order to play high-level repertoire.

If you learned this music as 'one-offs' by listening to recordings, and working on them for a long time, you need to learn how to read music at a proficient level in order to advance in playing repertoire.  As others have suggested, you need to get a teacher; the old adage 'you don't know what you don't know' applies to piano skills.

Improvising well is a separate skill.
You really don't need to convince any of us, you should just think about an efficient course to get you to playing high-level classical repertoire.
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